Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


November 14, 2008


Today I watched an episode of Wired Science on PBS.  They were talking about this super-green house that was made by a company called Livinghomes.  It was kind of an old episode so the company’s been in business for quite some time now.  It was particularly interesting to me because they incorporated a lot of my ideas into the homes that they build so I must be on the right track. Steve Glenn is the owner and he has put everything green, renewable, and sustainable that you could think of into the houses that he builds. 

He starts out with a modular constructed home that is prefabricated in a factory to reduce onsite construction costs and pollution caused by trucks.  And on the inside of the house they make sure to use nontoxic building materials, substances, paints, coatings and furniture so the house doesn’t have all the poisonous fumes and toxic molds that many of the new tight houses have associated with them.  Hopefully all houses that are built above ground will be built like this soon.

Here is a partial summary of Steve’s house from the show:

The living homes demonstration house is 2480 square foot in size.  It is 80% more efficient than a conventional structure of similar size.

It costs $390 per square foot to build, some 25% less than typical high and construction in the neighborhood (in California).  This is the first home to receive the platinum LEED standard set by the nonprofit United States Green Building Council.

Solar panels on the roof provide 80 to 85% of the energy needed for the house.  A Solar hot water heating system is also mounted on the roof.  This provides all the hot water necessary for the house including items such as the shower and washing machine.  In addition, this system also provides all the energy needed for the radiant heating system embedded in the floor of each room.

A water recycling system and a rainwater collection system provides irrigation water to a rooftop garden.




How much does oil really cost?

October 22, 2008

I just read this old but good article and the comments today at His math maybe a little off but the government sites are kinda screwy and numbers do not agree so I can see where he could go astray.  Check out these two:

Both sites claim the about the same month but the number are way different. The EIA site states that jet fuel is going at the rate of about 48 million barrels a month is July 2008. The airlines site states that they are going through 1.65 Billion gallons a month in August 2008? How can this be? It says gallons (bils for billions?) on top of the column. Even if they meant millions, 1.65 million and 47.76 million aren’t even close. Someone is screwing up here or am I reading something wrong?  According to what I can find on the government sites, they all seem to agree that we are pushing 21 million barrels a day into the US one way or another. To keep it simple let’s say we have a 30 day month. 21×30 is 630 and is fairly close to the monthly figures (a little high but I rounded up).

As for the article’s content, I agree that it would be a nightmare to be weaned off oil overnight but it needs to be done soon. Look at what Brazil did with ethanol-they are way ahead of us. And how about all those high MPG diesels that are all over Europe? They are made buy our automakers over there so why do they never send them to or make them in the US? My 99 VW Beetle TDI gets close to 60 MPG city and highway right now and all I do to get better than EPA is to keep my tire pressure up, time stoplights, do the speed limit and coast down hills. The new Toyota Prius gets only 48 city, 45 highway (right off their website) but they can’t even run ethanol. You have to buy a kit for a grand (see: There are US brand cars that can do better than that over in Europe but not in the good ol USA.

And then there’s the hybrids (all the rage). When I bought the diesel I was wondering why anyone would buy a stupid hybrid (with an unproven track record) that you can’t even plug in at home, charge it up and drive it for peanuts. If I could have plugged it in I might have bought one. But noooooooo you have to buy a conversion kit for big $$$$$$ to enjoy the “plug in privilege.” What the heck were they thinking? And why did GM kill the electric car right when they were way ahead of everyone? By now the Volt would have been on the market for years. Why did they let Toyota and Honda get the jump on them? Why is GM they closing plants for good and not retooling them for small new generation hi-tech cars like Honda and Toyota are? Diesel engines are about 30% more efficient than gas engines right out of the box. My car goes faster, hauls more and has tons of space in it (and it doesn’t have tons of batteries to replace only God knows when). The new diesels are so clean they can even be sold in California. And then there’s the question of why not a plug in diesel hybrid?

All I hear or read about is subsidies for cars by way of roads, interchanges, parking lots, gas, and oil wars. Lots of people I know get injured or killed in them every year. Big Airline interests get the next big wad of bills. Why is it that nothing goes to passenger rail systems anywhere except California (and they are going bankrupt over this financial mess). I read that California is putting in a 220 MPH rail run from SF to LA. Why can’t I jump on a train and go from Chicago to Milwaukee to Madison and then to Minneapolis? Have to go to Europe for any high tech transportation. The US is dead last. More cars on the road seems like a bad idea to me. Anyone ever think about that nasty mass transportation thing? Eeewww I might actually have to stand near other people. That would suck. I guess we should just stick to what we do best and spend our money blowin up stuff-cool!

Anyway this post- is interesting. I agree with the comments- this post needs to be freshened up a bit. I think I’ll just check all the facts and write a simplified version (heavy on the bullets points) and post it to my blog. This needs to be on peoples’ minds NOW!!!

Next I’ll attack McCain’s and Obama’s energy policies. I know “it’s the economy stupid” but in the long run oil (and deregulation) really got us into this mess in the first place. If we didn’t finance terrorists with our oil purchases we would probably have a lot more money to fight terror.


Infrastructure and politics

October 21, 2008

After reading an article on the Huffington Post ( and the following comments, it is clear that McCain and Palin do not have anything on their website regarding improvements to our existing, decaying infrastructure.



How can we invest in infrastructure like roads if are too busy blowing them up in Iraq?  I haven’t cIraq War- we blow up stuffhecked in numbers but let’s say that we do invest only 1.5% of GDP in infrastructure and China spends 9% of GDP.  I agree that the infrastructure needs attention but also needs diversity.  The big car companies, tire manufacturers, and a bunch of the big oil companies and systematically destroyed our light rail systems as you can see if you research the great streetcar scandal of 1947 and 1949, and have been caught conspiring to fix oil prices on the number of occasions but have been able to evade conviction.  Shifting all of our transportation budget’s resources to serve the big automobile, oil and airlines industries have left us weak and vulnerable.  We’re well on our way to achieving a third-world infrastructure.  I think it’s about time we get back on track.


 I agree that our highways, airports, power systems, city streets, and rural roads need to be maintained but our railways, light rail and high speed railways, are in a more desperate need of expansion, upgrade and maintenance.  These mass transportation systems will significantly reduce truck and auto traffic and therefore wear and tear on our current highways, city streets, in rural roads.  We have ignored them long enough and it shows with our massive traffic jams on all our highways in all our major cities. This will benefit all the people specifically the middle class and poor. Talk about long-term economic peril…

 And don’t forget about electricity and the Internet!


High speed rail in the Midwest

October 14, 2008
Amtrak Acela Express highspeed rail train

Amtrak Acela Express high speed rail train

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently published an article (1) about high speed rail in the Midwest. Because this is relevant to my interest in alternative energy and efficient mass transportation, it really piqued my interest. It is a little political but I was planning on posting an article about John McCain’s and Barack Obama’s energy policies any day now.

Here’s a quote from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s article:

“ Congress has shown that it’s wisely heeding the advice of a broad, bipartisan group of national transportation experts and officials, including state Secretary of Transportation Frank Busalacchi, who have spent the past few years examining the state of surface transportation in the United States at Congress’ direction.

Among their conclusions is that after a half-century of neglecting passenger rail in favor of roads and aviation, the federal government now must make a new, massive commitment to intercity rail travel.”

Just talking about high speed trains connecting the big cities in the Midwest is exciting. Currently the passenger rail trains and freight trains are the most efficient transportation method across land. They are also the least polluting. I have taken the train from Milwaukee to Chicago many times. The train station is located in a pretty questionable part of town. Parking your car is not easy and not safe. And once I arrived in Chicago I don’t know quite what to do once I get there. I walk to my destination, try to get on Chicago’s light rail system or hail a cab. The train itself doesn’t run that fast but it is a pleasure to sit back and read a book or work on my laptop. When I arrive in Chicago I feel rested and tranquil. These days however it is so busy you can’t even get a ticket.

Recently I was listening to Wisconsin Public Radio and their guest was Rick Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association. He said the “in the past train routinely exceeded 100MPH”. And the new rail system will only be able to travel about 110 MPH. We haven’t really gone too far in 100 years. Why can’t we keep up with Spain or France or almost every other country overseas? How did we let our government allow big corporations (oil, automobiles, air, etc.) to destroy our rail infrastructure with lobbyist’s propaganda? It is no secret that automobiles are encouraged and subsidized with parking lots, federal and state road funds and until recently, cheap fuel. In addition, the airlines and automobile makers are given huge cheap loans, and breaks on almost everything. Now is the time to put it right.

You don’t have to go too far to find the culprits in Wikipedia. Take a look at “The Great American Streetcar Scandal”.


“The Great American Streetcar Scandal is a conspiracy theory according to which streetcar systems throughout the United States were dismantled and replaced with buses in the mid-20th century as a result of illegal actions by a number of prominent companies, including National City Lines (NCL), a holding company owned in part by General Motors, Firestone Tire, Standard Oil of California and Phillips Petroleum.”

“On April 9, 1947, nine corporations and seven individuals (constituting officers and directors of certain of the corporate defendants) were indicted in the Federal District Court of Southern California on two counts under the U.S. Sherman Antitrust Act. The charges, in summary, were conspiracy to acquire control of a number of transit companies to form a transportation monopoly, and conspiring to monopolize sales of buses and supplies to companies owned by the City Lines.”

The result of the trial was a joke. In 1949, all the defendants were found guilty but only on the second count of “conspiring to monopolize the provision of parts and supplies to their subsidiary companies.” Here’s the punch line: “The companies were each fined $5,000, and the directors were each fined one dollar.” Wow I’ll bet that really hurt them. I’d never do it again if I were fined a whole dollar.

Wake up and smell the corruption. It’s been around for a long time.

Never write off any new propulsion technology and let’s get a little more creative while we’re at it. Who knows, maybe a high tech coal fired clean catalytic steam engine could make a comeback. While I agree this is farfetched, all options should be explored. Trains are simply more economical, safer and least polluting that anything currently out there. They can be powered by a wide variety of energy sources from electricity to clean diesel or biodiesel. Let’s get more right of ways back and lay more tracks. And while we’re at it, we should create more bike trails that actually could take us to work. How about an area for bikes on the train?

A while ago I had another idea that was a little strange but who knows. I was thinking about a special train car system that works similar to what a ferryboat uses. What if you drove your car up a ramp and drove right onto a train car and then rode it to another city? And when you got there you just drove down the ramp off the train car and continued to your destination just like a ferryboat.

John Eberhardt

“Crisis should not derail a great idea. High-speed Midwestern rail network makes eminent sense. Obama gets it; McCain doesn’t” By JERRY RESLER, Posted: Oct. 11, 2008,